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What’s Your Disney “First Day Tradition?”

It’s time to talk Disney trip traditions!!! Over the years, my “first day at Disney” traditions have changed and evolved. But there’s nothing like looking forward to that thing you love to do first when you get to Disney World or Disneyland.

So my question for you today is this: Do you have a favorite ”Welcome to Disney” tradition that you always look forward to? Let us know in the comments below — I might just have to change mine once I get inspired by a few of yours!

In the interest of fairness, I’ll share one of mine, too… :-)

Take a Deep Breath and Enjoy the View

One of my favorite “first night traditions” in Disney World is shaking off the stress of travel with a deep breath and a relaxing view. The best place to do this in my opinion? Disney’s Polynesian Resort!

I usually choose one of two options once I get there: Either lounge in a comfy, wicker chair at the Tambu Lounge, or head to ‘Ohana for a sunset dinner! (And sometimes I do both!)

Tambu Sign

“The Poly” offers lots of choices for relaxing! ;-)

Tambu Drink Menu -- Click to Enlarge

I always choose the luxurious Lapu Lapu for my first Disney drink — a mix of rum and tropical juices served in a fresh pineapple! This drink is extravagant to be sure, but it really sets the tone for a relaxing vacation.

And if you’re going non-alcoholic, they’ll make you a virgin one in the pineapple, too! No matter which way you go, a drink in pineapple really does say “I’m finally on vacation!!”

Lapu Lapu from the Tambu Lounge

After I take a breather with my pineapple, I’ll often head next door to ‘Ohana (with a previously booked Advance Dining Reservation, of course) for dinner.

Then, if I haven’t seen the Magic Kingdom Fireworks from ‘Ohana, I’ll head down to the Polynesian Beach for the show!

My favorite secluded spot on the Polynesian Resort Beach!

Whether I’m watching the sun set over Seven Seas Lagoon or catching an awesome view of Wishes, this is the perfect way to unwind after what can be a stressful day of traveling on my first day at Disney. The bonus here? You don’t burn a day on your tickets with a trip into the parks, and you still get to see fireworks! Score!!

So how about you? Do you head immediately from the airport to the Magic Kingdom for a Dole Whip? Stop off in Epcot for a ride on Spaceship Earth and dinner at Biergarten first thing? Go to the hotel for a swim? What is your first day or first night at Disney tradition?

Let’s hear all about your favorite First Disney Day tradition — what it is, how you do it, why it’s special! Share below in the comments!

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139 Comments

  1. John Grigas says:

    We never do parks on our first day, but we always get to a Monorail. We’ll usually do a Monorail “crawl” of some sort – sometimes it’s grabbing a drink at the Outer Rim, then Tambu and then Narcoosies. Sometimes it’s a progressive meal with sandwich from Contempo, sushi at Poly, then dessert somewhere around the GF. (Then early to bed for rope drop in the morning!)

    Depending on time of year, it becomes a twilight kind of thing that has a mix of touring with a lot of relaxing. We don’t usually stay at the monorail resorts, but it’s easy enough to get there if you don’t have a time crunch.

  2. Chris says:

    Well, this will only be our 2nd visit as a family, so we don’t have a tradition set up yet. But this year, we are going to check into the Contemporary for our first night. This is a surprise!!!!! Then we will chill out and later walk over to the Magic Kingdom for the Tomorrowland Terrace Dessert Party! We’ll start our vacation with sweet treats and fireworks. Very excited! :)

  3. Stephanie says:

    We head over to the room and lay down for a quick second. I mean second, then head to the MK. We arrive early in the morning/afternoon so we spend the day there and then go and eat ADR of course.

  4. Katie says:

    Always go to Magic Kingdom first thing thing…and then (oddly) lunch at Rainforest Cafe at Animal Kingdom the very next day!

  5. kathyk says:

    We only live an hour away so most of our visits are “day-trips,” heading over in the morning, home at night. However, for our anniversary in July we’ll stay a few days in a resort. In the early days it was one of the All-Stars, but last year’s stay at the Caribbean Beach Resort changed everything! As soon as we checked in around noon (room was ready, yay!), we went to the food court for lunch & our refillable mugs. Then back to the room, changed into swimsuits and down to the beach for some sun (for me) and digging in sand (our 3 y/o). After that we hit the pool, then back to the room to clean up & over to DTD for dinner. This was actually a “non-park” stay. We did Chef Mickey’s one morning, rented a boat and tooled around Seven Seas Lagoon, visited all the monorail loop resorts for snacks & pics, played with our son in the amazing CBR kids’ water play area…everything EXCEPT visit a single park! Amazingly, it was one of our best Disney trips yet, and a tradition we’re already planning to repeat for this July!

  6. Steph says:

    Our drive to WDW is just 3 hours, so we would always arrive first at Downtown, ready for lunch and needing to use up a few hours before check-in. That means only one thing: Earl of Sandwich. No matter how long the line (and we’ve been in some that were out the back door to the front of the coffee and tea shop!) it never takes too long and we are always able to get a table outside where it is nice and breezy, even when its hot. The food is consistently delicious, fresh & inexpensive and we enjoy being at our destination, soaking in the ambiance: listening to songs on the outdoor speakers from the rides or from animated movies and people watching. I’m always curious where people are in their trip and where they live.

    Now we have annual passes, so our first day plans have much more flexibility. We are morning and evening park people, so we tend to go to whichever park we are in the mood for first until it gets too hot/busy, back to the hotel to chill and refresh, then back to another park/DD for a nice dinner rez.

  7. Samantha says:

    We always head straight to Epcot as soon as we leave the airport. First we grab fast passes for Soarin’ then we grab a margarita in Mexico and then head back to Via Napoli for a pitcher of Sangria and a pepperoni pizza. We were just there in April, and tried a lot of new things…so our next trip, may be a little different on the first day. We have been day dreaming about the fresh made caramel popcorn from Germany.

  8. Asha says:

    T-Rex for dinner.

  9. Sue martin says:

    After travelling through the maingates of disneyworld I get the rush of being back in one of my favorite places so I just have to yell out to the world…”I’m back, here I come!

    One of my favorite things to do after we check into our hotel is to go for a walk all around the hotel grounds watching all the families and kids enjoying their special time at a disney resort. It gets you in the mood of everything disney. We really enjoy Riverside and the lovely feel of the old plantation and the touch of southern hospitality. We usually walk around watching for kids fishing at the fishing hole, seeing the boats arrive from downtown disney and just the pure joy of the outdoors as we explore the walk to the Orleans resort. Then it is back to one of the gazebos to sit and enjoy the warmth and sunshine with a favorite drink. By this time we are getting into the groove of the disney experience. We sit and savour the moment while we talk about what we plan to do and where we will be for our meals! After our walkabout you realize how well disney has kept the grounds and the good feeling of a favorite spot.

    If we go to Magic Kingdom before we check in we definitely need to stand at the end of main street by the flag pole and just take in the whole scene of the fairytale castle, the disney music and the beauty of a quieter time in the streetscape of Main Street USA! Our favorite time to do this is when we go see the Christmas decorations!

  10. Sharon says:

    On an anniversary trip we started a tradition with a morerelaxed feel, then continued it this year with family. First stop is checking in at Port Orleans and a lille bitty lunch. Then, since leave for airport between 4 and 5 am,we took a luxurious nap! Then off to Narcoossees for Wishes viewing and the best dinner ever. This year we then hopped a bus for an hour or so of Downtown Disney. Took the boat home under a starry night. Next morning always either Food and Wine festival or MK.

  11. Sharon says:

    I want to go back right now!

  12. CanadiansLoveWDW says:

    we always go to animal kingdom in the morning with flame tree BBQ for lunch… then Akhuras hall for Dinner… cant wait to go in september…

  13. brett says:

    I always stay on property. usually at port Orleans river front.but have stayed just about everywhere but the value resorts. For many years my brother and I would drive over to the Polynesian and get morning coffee at Kona cafe. Nothing like sipping a coffee on the beach at bay lake at 8 AM before everything gets nuts. And then we need to do the obligatory trip around the monorail.

    Last year we brought the kids to Disney by surprise. We told them we were going to miami. Its amazing how a 6 and 9 year old ignore all the signs and didn’t realize where we were. I drove into Disney the back way behind saratoga springs so they didn’t see the signs for disney and then drove past fort wilderness to go to the contemporary resort carefully calling their attention away from the magic kingdom as we parked. They were so excited to be in Florida we were able to keep their attention on us and they didn’t recognize the contemporary as we hurriedly waked inside. I took them directly up the escalators right to the monorail. Now, we live in NYC so they are used to subway trains. I told them this is how they get around in miami. They were starting to realize something was not right. It wasn’t till they heard the announcement on the monorail did it sink into them that they were at the magic kingdom. The looks on their faces was priceless. They kinda danced all the wayto the polynesian where we had a dole whip and did a ferry tour around bay lake.
    good times.

  14. Lexie says:

    We only go to California Disneyland as its where our heart is and we have gone there since opening day. We are hardy long time Disneyland fans so we drop luggage and hustle over to the park. We stop at the entrance to read Walt’s welcome together, we stop at the light in his apartment over the fire house to say hello and we take the train from Main Street all around the park. Next stop is New Orleans Square for Haunted Mansion and snacks from vendors we like, honey hot Carmel popcorn, Mickey rice Krispy treats, New Orleans style treats and its off to Winnie The Pooh where we love their bakery and all things good and shaped like our favorite characters. We eat in New Orleans Square for a sit down dinner with Jazz then meander to the riverboat. After the refreshing Riverboat its time to listen to nighttime music at the castle and watch the light show, then we head to tomorrow land to take the Monorail all around before exiting. Our tradition before leaving Main street is to sit together on a bench and talk of Disney times past with our family then buy each other a small gift on our way out. Its always a great start to our week long trips, to follow our traditions with rides and the foods that mean Disney to us. Thanks for a fabulous memory. My Moms last trip was for her 80th and we did all the above as well as all she wanted for a week. She is gone now but the Disney memories, are grand.

  15. Sarah says:

    We usually arrive from PA late morning. We take the Magical Express from the Orlando airport to the Wilderness Lodge. We check in to our villa there, then head right over to the MK via boat across the lagoon. We have a relaxing lunch at Tony’s. After lunch we always head immediately to Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin to see who gets the first high score of the trip. (We always ride Buzz at least 4 or 5 times during our stay!) After exploring MK a little more we go back to the villa for some relaxation. After a shower and/or a nap we order room service for dinner. If there’s still time at the end of the evening we may take a dip in the pool or just head down to the Roaring Fork to get our mugs and check out the awesome lobby.

  16. Jacky says:

    Our new 1st day tradition is also heading over to the Poly. We either eat at O’hana if we have our vacation planned way in advance so we ADR’s or at Kona if we go on a spur of the moment weekend trip. (We live in Miami so we are 3-4hours away.) We love eating the potstickers and chicken wings and having a nice tropical drink. After dinner we always jump on the Monorail and head over to MK or visit the Contemporary and Grand Floridian! We just just got back from a weekend at Disney and I can’t wait to go for our summer trip at the end of June. We already have our Kona reservations!

  17. Crystal says:

    Look around the resort, swimming, Downtown Disney, and dinner at the T-Rex cafe.

  18. wyndy says:

    earl of sandwich enough said

  19. Karen says:

    I travel with 3-4 other ladies (we’re all over 50 and single). We call ourselves the Disney Girls. We have a first night tradition of shopping! We’ll have dinner either at our resort’s food court or make ADRs for Downtown Disney. Then we hit the Downtown Disney shops, ending with a couple hours or so at World of Disney. This is our “big” shopping time, tho we do some damage the whole trip, too. We have everything sent to the resort, and when we get our bags, we do a show and tell. But that first night, we can’t wait to hit the World, but don’t want to waste a day on our ticket, so shopping at Downtown Disney gives us the “feel” of being at DW.

  20. EJ says:

    After we check in to our hotel, we hop on the monorail or boat and head to the Grand and 1900 Park Fare. Dinner with Cinderella has become our family tradition. Ourr first full day in the parks is always Animal Kingdom with breakfast at Tusker House.

  21. Melissa says:

    After arriving to the Caribbean Beach Resort and making our way to our room we jump like fools on our pirate beds screaming ” We’re at Disney!!” Then we spend the afternoon at the pool, our son goes down the water slide like a million times, then a quick shower and off we go to The Boardwalk and eat at Kat Kora’s and explore and watch the street performers then its back to the Hotel for a little night swimming!! Not exploring a park on the fist day was a relaxing way to adjust to vacation and get the right amount of Disney to get excited about our days to come.

  22. Carol says:

    Our first day tradition is to always to have tea at the GF. We love to relax after a morning of traveling. We sit in the beautiful surroundings and are treated to excellent service. We begin our wind down from the hectic life and really know that we are now on vacation!

  23. Steve says:

    We hit Raglan Road in the evening for our first meal. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that it is my daughter’s favorite place. And how can I say no to. MY Disney princess.

  24. Kelly says:

    My first day tradition revolves around POPCORN! I always buy a popcorn bucket on my first day we arrive, and then throughout the week we just buy the cheaper box of popcorn and fill up the bucket. My kids have squeezed the popcorn boxes enough times that I know the bucket is much ‘safer’, because spilled popcorn is such a sad thing. So each morning I hang the bucket on the stroller hook, and it gets to spend the whole week with us.

  25. Dawn says:

    We have a lot of traditions that we have built over the years that we have been going to Disney.
    We usually arrive in Florida on late Sunday afternoon so we don’t do the parks that day, but we do head to Downtown Disney for dinner! Or just getting in the Disney mood!
    First day is always Epcot, head right to Soarin!!!! then off to Nemo!
    Next day is MK, and we always head right to Buzz Lightyear. Also always spend the evening riding Haunted Mansion, Pirates and Jungle Cruise multiple times!
    Hollywood Studios means Toy Story Mania first, then Star Wars!!! Also always eat dinner at Sci-Fi Dinner Café! LOVE IT!!!

  26. Chrissy says:

    When we lived far enough from WDW that we had to fly there, we would take the earliest flight, and get to MK right away. Now we live about 8 hrs from WDW, so we drive. We usually get there in the evening, so we check in, have dinner at the resort, and let the kids have fun in the pool. Just taking in all the “Disney Magic” around you, even at a resort, is enough for me!!!

  27. Danielle says:

    We usually start our trip in Magic Kingdom. We head to the Jungle Cruise. And “yes” we have to eat some dole whip!! We make it a relaxing day!!

  28. Jenny says:

    We started our tradition a couple of years ago. Usually our room is ready when we arrive around noon, so we settle to our resort. (We’re still trying them all out, so the resort varies every year.) After a short rest, we head to Downtown Disney for lunch at Wolfgang Puck Express and shopping. Then it’s back to the resort for a swim or a nap. That night we head to Magic Kingdom to see the night time parade and/or Wishes. We usually get APs since we stay for two weeks, so we’re not wasting a park day by just going for the evening entertainment.

  29. Julie says:

    I have a tradition of going to Hoop de doo the first night we are in WDW. We always have to get up very early to catch flights and don’t really get there in time to justify using a whole day on the passes, so we go to hoop, eat decent food, get a good laugh and pack it in earlier than usual to be able to hit the ground running the next day!

  30. Amber says:

    We always begin and end our vacation at MK with one or more days there mid-vacation, too. Since we aren’t there at rope drop on the first day, we take a leisurely walk through the park with no expectations other than enjoying the atmosphere. We try to start on a night that MSEP and Wishes are happening, too:-)

  31. Kristin says:

    If we’re lucky enough to get a direct flight, we usually arrive in the late morning, so we head over to Animal Kingdom for a nice stroll. Nothing beats stretching the legs amongst the animals and sights after sitting on a plane for hours. But even if we don’t have a direct flight, our first dinner is always at Boma, regardless where we’re staying.

  32. Vickie says:

    We love Disney! We are East Coasters, but every few years, we make the trip across country for some West Coast fun. Our first day tradition at Disneyland, is to go directly to California Adventure and ride California Soarin. It’s our way of immersing ourselves into the California vibe! Afterward, we hit our as many rides as possible and then hop to DL in time for Wishes!

    Each August we fly from Kentucky to Florida for a WDW vacation. Our first day tradition, after checking into the French Quarter, is to go over to Fort Wilderness for a picnic from Trails End. It’s a great way to slow down and relax. After our picnic, we like to walk back to the dock and watch the Electric Water Pageant. It’s old school, but we really enjoy the slower pace. Next, we catch a ferry to the MK (maybe catching glimpses of Wishes along the way). Then, it’s back to POFQ to try to sleep a few hours before our first park day, which is always at MK!

  33. Jenny says:

    I tend to take a casual day when we arrive. We will either just take a stroll around the resort or go to DTD. One time we went to play at Winter/Summerland. Came back to our resort took a nap, got up and went to Boma. It was great.
    :)

  34. Krissy Vigs says:

    We are DVC members at Bay Lake Tower…yes we are spoiled! Most times we pass out before the fireworks on the first night but we always try to make my favorite. The Electric Light Parade! Something about the music and lights and hanging at the Magic Kingdom in the dark can’t be beat!

  35. JennyC says:

    We usually go to DTD or one of the resorts for our first meal, whereever we are we usually eat and then walk around and explore

  36. Coop says:

    We have Annual Passes so using a park ticket on arrival day doesn’t matter. After we check in and check out the resort, we go to MK. We go up to the train platform and just look down Main Street. Then we ride the train around the park – that’s it. No attractions, no meets- just ride the train. Then we take a bus over to AKL and have dinner at Boma (that’s tradition). After dinner, we check out AKL resort and then get a bus to DTD and do some shopping (and walking off dinner). Then we head back to the resort for the night. Low key – but it works for us.

  37. Mike Clancy says:

    We always check into our Disney hotel and then head to Downtown Disney for a late lunch then hit the store before heading back to the hotel for pool or relaxation time. But it is a must after dinner to head to the Polynesian to watch the water parade from a lounge chair on the beach with the Magic Kingdom in the background. What a great way to tease yourself for a visit to the MK the next morning!

  38. Kathy says:

    Because we have annual passes we are all over the place so we have a system for each park. When we arrive at MK my daughter quickly makes to Tomorrowland for Speedway fast passes with the 4 yr old then rides the People Mover while I, my son-in-law and 2 yr old grandson take the train around and meet up in Tomorrowland. He would spend all day on the train if he had his way.

  39. Darcel M says:

    When we plan a trip to Disney World we plan our first day with a haircut for my grandson at the Main St barbershop and breakfast at the Castle with the Princesses!!!

  40. marjorie says:

    MK and straight onto Pirates!

  41. Jane says:

    grab the monorail from BTL to MK. The first thing we do is a trip around the park on the train, then a walk down Main Street. First night dinner is always Chef Mickey’s followed by the fireworks from our balcony! Great way to set the stage for our first morning…

  42. Amy says:

    Our first day plan at WDW is to check into the Beach Club and have dinner at Cape May followed by a swim in Stormalong Bay. Nothing like a sand bottomed pool to make you feel like vacation!

    When we go to Disneyland, our “home park” our first day varies. On our first park day we eat breakfast at La Brea then head to the park. First picture on our photo pass is always in front of Mickey.

  43. Denise says:

    We have a longstanding tradition of how we spend our first day in Disney! This goes back to when our kids were just babies (they are 13 and 11 now).

    We arrive, check in, and get settled in our resort. We spend most of the day exploring our home for the next week. Usually grab lunch at our resort quick service, and spend the afternoon enjoying the pool. Of course vacation has not begun till I am poolside with a pina colava in hand!

    We always,ALWAYS book Ohanas for our first night dinner. We try to head to the polynesian early enough to hang out on the beach with a drink before dinner. After stuffing ourselves silly we head back to the beach to watch the water parade and Wishes. Then we take our first spin on the monorail, usually stopping off at each resort to shop and look around. Then it’s back “home” to watch some Disney resort TV and get ready for our first day in the parks. Vacation would not be the same if we started it any other way!

  44. Joey G says:

    We get into the hotel (no particulate resort), check in our room if it’s ready, use the restroom (TMI) and head right to MK. Once we get through the gate, we take our family picture on Main St. and head left into Adventure Land and walk briskly to Pirates…ARRRGGGHHHHH!!!!

    Oh yea, we go on it twice :-)

  45. patty says:

    We check in then usually go to downtown disney to spend the rest of the day. Usually try to get reservations at Ohana’s next to the window so we get a view of the castle, then back to the hotel for the kids to swim. We usually plan are days by the extended hours for the parks. We will be going again in July 2014.. The Snow White run away train will be open by then.. Can’t wait. We usually ride the monorail around. then up early next morning. Love Disney

  46. Colm says:

    Mk- jungle cruise, pirates, splash, pecos bill’s! I love the burgers and my wife loves the fixins bar.

  47. Jennifer says:

    Rainforest Cafe with Lava Nachos to share and then on to the Finding Nemo show!! EVERYTIME!!!

  48. Melissa says:

    For the longest time, our first-day tradition was to get in as early as possible, hit the Magic Kingdom, then break for a signature dinner at a monorail resort. Then two things happened. First, Disney instituted the $10/person credit card hold for reservations at signature restaurants. If our flight were delayed by several hours, we wouldn’t have time to call and cancel an arrival day reservation without being penalized. Second, we moved from New Jersey to Montana, which now means a MUCH longer travel day. Instead of arriving in the late morning, we now get in in the early evening. Arrival day is no longer a park day for us. :(

    On our last visit, our arrival night dinner was at Olivia’s Café, and it’s the same on our next visit. Maybe we’re starting a new tradition!

  49. Paul S. says:

    Living in the Orlando/Disney World area for nearly 16 years now, as well as having an annual pass, I go for the day now. But definitely planning on staying on property again soon, if things work out.

    When I used to come down on vacation from the Dallas/Ft. Worth area, I traditionally took some time after I got checked into the resort I was staying in to get acclimated to the specific resort I was at. I gave me a chance to truly explore the fantastic surroundings, as well as let me know where everything was within the resort I had chosen for my stay. NEVER regretted taking time to getting to know my “home away from home.” I’m sure I’ll still be doing that when I stay on property again, too.

  50. Michelle says:

    Our first day tradition is visiting Magic Kingdom. We have to see the castle first thing, or it doesn’t feel like we’ve “arrived” yet!

    One trip we deviated from that, and instead went to Epcot on our first day. We couldn’t put our finger on it, but as we walked through World Showcase, we just weren’t feeling that Disney Spirit. Then my husband and I discovered it was because we haven’t been to Magic Kingdom yet. So we ditched Epcot and ran over to MK. Since then, we always visit MK on our first day now!

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